As the winter draws in and the mornings get darker and chillier, the temptation to stay in bed will be too much for a lot of employees.
According to research by YouGov, 19 per cent of British workers have pulled a sickie in the last 12 months. The poll also found that 7 per cent had lied about being ill when they weren’t, and 7 per cent had exaggerated their illness so that they wouldn’t have to go into work. So what can employers do to pull the duvet off malingering staff?
CLEARING THINGS UP
If an absent employee doesn’t phone in sick until 11am, it will be difficult for the rest of a team to pick up the slack and manage additional responsibilities. So it is important that employers have a sickness absence policy, and that they communicate absence reporting procedures clearly to staff.
Employees are usually required to telephone their manager as early as possible on the day of the absence and explain the nature of the illness, the likely length of absence and any work that needs urgent attention. For absences up to seven days, employees may be required to complete self-certification forms. For longer absences, employees may be required to obtain a statement from their doctor stating that they aren’t fit to work and the reasons why.
SOCIAL MEDIA ACTIVITY
If an employee is dishonest about not being able to work, this could amount to gross misconduct. In certain circumstances, this may entitle the employer to dismiss them. It is worth checking the absent colleague’s social media pages to see if they are really bedbound.
Supposing that an employee puts a call in to their manager, saying they can’t come to work because they’ve got a stomach infection, but later that day they check into a restaurant on Facebook. The employer could argue that either their illness was feigned or, if the employee did have an infection and were able to tuck into the meal, they could still come into work.
Doing a second job while on sick leave could also be considered gross misconduct. It would probably be more serious if the other job was being done at a time when the employee should have been in the office, because the employee may be being paid by two different employers for the same hours. But even if they were working their second job out of office hours, the fact that the employee feels well enough to work elsewhere could be used as evidence to indicate that their illness was not genuine.
If you do uncover evidence of dishonesty, it may be appropriate to take disciplinary action. There would need to be a thorough investigation, and there are a set of rules which must be followed.
If there was then a case to answer, the employee should be provided with any evidence and invited to a disciplinary hearing. They must also be allowed to be accompanied by a fellow staff member or trade union representative. If the employer concludes that they haven’t told the truth about their illness, a sanction could be imposed. It depends on the circumstances, but this could mean a written warning or possibly dismissal. Should the employee be dismissed, they must be given a right of appeal.
It is crucial that the employer follows a proper process. Otherwise, the employee may have grounds to bring an unfair dismissal claim against them. On the whole, however, employees need to have at least two years’ service before they can bring unfair dismissal claims against their company.